We’re on a mission to keep items out of the landfill by changing the take-make-waste model that traditional retail subscribes to. By educating consumers about the environmental benefits of reuse we hope to inspire people to make smarter choices about their purchases. For us it’s simple: we act as stewards of our planet and of our homes and we see no reason why we shouldn’t also be stewards of our clothing.

Why does it matter what you are saving?

When you buy used instead of new, you are making a choice. Used items have already been produced - raw materials were extracted, water was used, greenhouse gases were emitted - the carbon footprint was already “spent.” While we can’t undo the manufacturing of that item, we can make sure those resources aren’t wasted.

Logic suggests if customers are not purchasing used items, those items would end up in the landfill. According to a joint report produced by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and The Circular Fibres Initiative, “every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.”* That’s a lot of textiles going to waste and that’s a big reason to start buying used garments whenever possible!

By getting the items that already exist back into use -- instead of sitting idly in closets or worse, ending up in landfills -- and using them for longer, you are contributing to a new retail model of producing less and advancing the circular economy.

  • CO2e

    CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, is a standardized unit that allows us to talk about all of the greenhouse gases that something contributes to global warming. By thinking about each of the greenhouse gases in terms of how much carbon dioxide would create the same amount of global warming, we can come up with a single number, a carbon footprint, expressed as CO2e.

  • New Item Carbon Footprint

    The carbon footprint of an item represents the greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing that item: everything from extracting the raw materials to assembling the final product, and even getting it to the customer. We’ll refer to this as the new item carbon footprint because all new items have to go through each of these steps.

  • Item Condition Factor

    All the items that arrive at our warehouse are thoroughly inspected to assess their functionality and condition, and at the end of that inspection are assigned one of our standardized condition grades. We’ve mapped each grade to an approximate portion of usable life left to try to understand how much use you, as the new owner, can get out of the item you buy. We estimate that most of the time, items still have about 80-95% of usable life left in them when they’re resold. We call this the item condition factor.

  • Resale Processing Footprint

    After an item has been inspected, we clean or repair it as needed, and then hold the item in our warehouse until it’s ready to be shipped off to its new home. We add all of the environmental impacts from this process together to get the ‘cost’ of putting an item back into use. We call this the resale processing footprint.

  • Displacement

    Does buying something used really replace the purchase of something new? The answer, of course, is: it depends! According to current industry data**, not every used purchase completely replaces a new purchase. In fact, a used purchase only replaces a new purchase 60% of the time. And the other 40% of the time, a consumer buying used buys both a used item and a new item. Displacement refers to the 60% of the time that a used purchase replaces a new purchase.

Applying the calculation

“What are the average carbon savings from buying used instead of new?”

First, let’s take the new item carbon footprint: as a reminder, this is just the carbon footprint of manufacturing the item and getting it to the customer.

Next, to calculate the total carbon footprint from buying used (the resale item carbon footprint) we start with the resale processing footprint and account for two things: 1) displacement and 2) purchase frequency.

To account for the 40% of the time that a used purchase does not directly displace a purchase (reminder: average displacement rate = 60%), we add in 40% of a new item carbon footprint.

We then divide that by the item condition factor to account for the fact that your purchase frequency increases, even if only slightly, when you buy used. This gives us our resale item carbon footprint.

A few notes about displacement

First, we do recognize that some consumers will fit into this “average” category while others will not. There are some consumers who are focused on and committed to purchasing used instead of new and those customers will not be represented by the average savings shown on our page. They will instead realize a higher percentage of savings because they are displacing a higher number of new purchases than the average consumer.

Second, while the current industry standard displacement research includes a variety of product categories, there are some categories that were not represented in the research. We recognize that some product categories are more or less likely to completely offset a purchase and we are committed to continuing to build rigor into our data as more and more research is published.

Key assumptions

  • When a customer is making the decision between buying used vs buying new, customers compare the same or very similar items, meaning the product footprints we use are the same.
  • We assume that customers will use their used items in the same way as they would use a new item (in terms of severity, activity type, etc.)
  • More durable items will deteriorate in condition at a slower rate than less durable items.
  • Once the entire use of an item is used up, a consumer will purchase another (similar) item.

(* reference) : A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future

(** reference): Understanding the environmental savings of buying pre-owned fashion

New item carbon footprints were calculated using methodology developed in partnership with Brown & Wilmanns Environmental, LLC. We utilized the Ecoinvent v3.6 life cycle assessment database and modeled new item carbon footprints using OpenLCA 1.10.3 life cycle assessment software. Global warming potential values were calculated using the ReCiPe 2016 midpoint (H) life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methodology for all fibers and processes modeled in OpenLCA.